The Best Cheap Laptop Under 300 Dollars In 2018 (With School & Work Picks)

Back to school events used to mean buying notebooks and mechanical pencil lead. Now it means making sure you’ve got a tablet or computer for taking notes and reading online courses!

While there are plenty of laptops out there that will thoroughly break your bank account, you don’t have to be rolling in cash to get a great computer. We’ve rounded up five of the absolute best laptops under $300 to fit any budget.

Picking the best cheap laptop under $300

These days, portable computers come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. From tiny tablets that fit in the palm of your hand to massive 17” gaming laptops, the options are nearly endless.

If you intended to stay under $300, that reduces your overall number of options, however. At this price, most laptops will run on the smaller side between 11 – 14 inches.

Within that size bracket you can find a wide range of hardware options. From super fast machines with tiny hard drives to slower models with huge storage, you need to prioritize what feature is most important to you.

Do you need the most RAM possible for running multiple programs simultaneously? Would you prefer to go with Windows 10 or with the stripped down Chrome OS?

Whether you want a full size laptop for storing work projects or a small tablet with a touch screen, we’ve got a machine that will work for you! Let’s get started by taking a look at the five best contenders in this budget price range.

Verdict: Editor’s Choice

HP EliteBook 8460P (Refurbished)

HP EliteBook 8460P (Refurbished)In 2018, the refurbished HP EliteBook 8460P absolutely blows away the competition. A full 8GB of RAM and an i5 processor are the absolute best you can get within this price range.

When you need the best specs, that’s the laptop to pick — so long as you don’t mind a refurbished unit. If you prefer a touch screen and don’t want to buy a refurbished model, then the Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 will easily be your best pick instead.

The contenders for best budget laptop under $300

1. HP EliteBook 8460P (Refurbished)

  • Much more RAM than normal for this price range
  • Low price
  • Upgrade-ready
  • Refurbished unit
  • HDD instead of the faster SSD

Should this be your choice?

Want enough RAM to run multiple programs at once for school, work, or photo editing? This is easily one of the best laptops for college students under $300 and should be your pick!

Don’t let the refurbished tag scare of you off, either. Repairing or upgrading this model isn’t that difficult.

When you need to save money, a refurbished unit should always be in the back of your mind. The asking price goes down significantly, but you still get decent specs in return.

HP’s refurbished EliteBook is typically available in the $250 price range. For college students on a tight budget, that’s a huge plus when you don’t even have to start all the way at $299.

In exchange for buying a pre-owned and restored machine, you get a full 8B of RAM. That’s the biggest draw of going this route, as you won’t find a new laptop in this price range with that much memory.

This is an excellent entry level option meant for upgrading as you go when funds allows. That’s if you aren’t afraid of opening up your laptop case, anyway!

Upgrading a portable computer like this is easier than you’d think. While this unit has plenty of memory out of the box, replacing the HDD with a higher speed solid state drive would provide a huge boost.

By selecting a refurbished unit and upgrading, you get a high end machine for a fraction of the price of buying a new computer.

One problem is consistently brought up by buyers, however. This particular refurbished unit often has battery issues, so be prepared to spend the cash to buy a new battery fairly quickly.

Hardware specifications for HP EliteBook 8460P (Refurbished)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2520M 2.5GHz
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage250GB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 3000
Display14.0-Inch LED-backlit HD Anti-Glare Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Battery Life3 hours
Weight4.56 lbs

2. Acer Aspire 1

  • Sleek and lightweight
  • Very low price
  • Tiny storage space
  • No optical drive

Should this be your choice?

Need an ultra cheap notebook that isn’t meant for gaming or video editing? This should be your pick as the test laptop for Internet browsing or basic use.

At just over the $200 threshold, the Acer Aspire 1 can be the perfect budget laptop for a specific subset of users.

If you need to perform photo or video editing, this won’t be your machine. Instead, this is really the best basic use laptop.

You won’t find a cheaper option for browsing social media, emailing, putting together Google Docs, and so on.

With a solid state drive, 4GB of RAM, and a huge battery life, this is an excellent budget option that’s well under $250. Of course, trade offs have to be expected to find a notebook at this low a price.

Due to its ultra small design, you can’t upgrade any components on this particular machine. The specs you get of of the box will stay that way for the laptop’s entire life cycle.

The Aspire 1 gives you the full version of Windows 10, but that can be a potential issue due to the small storage space. Any amount of data — even just spreadsheets or a few MP3s — will prevent you from installing critical Windows updates.

Thankfully, there’s an SD card slot for storage, as well as USB ports. Just keep in mind that you will need to buy an SD card or USB hard drive to get the most out of this machine.

Buyers love the specs for the price, but do often mention one odd downside. This model has no  caps lock indicator light and instead uses a screen overlay.

An image will pop up on the screen to alert you when switching between caps or lowercase. If you aren’t used to this design, some users find it annoying at first.

Hardware specifications for Acer Aspire 1
ProcessorIntel Celeron N3450 (2.2GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage32GB eMMC
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 500
Display14-Inch Full HD Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
Battery Life9 hours
Weight3.64 lbs

3. 2018 Lenovo IdeaPad 320

  • Ample storage space
  • DVD-RW drive
  • HDD instead of faster SSD
  • Only 4GB of RAM

Should this be your choice?

Do you need a large hard drive and a the full Windows 10 experience without spending much money? This should be your pick for the best Windows laptop under $300.

Most of our picks for the best laptop in this price range feature smaller hard drives and screen sizes. Lenovo’s IdeaPad is instead more of a traditional laptop offering.

When you want a full size screen and lots of storage space, this is the way to go. Unlike many machines at this price, you still get an optical drive for burning DVDs and a full 1TB HDD.

For those who work online or need to save large documents, that drive space is the main selling point. There are downsides to picking a full Windows computer at this price point, however.

Without question, the IdeaPad is an “entry level” machine. The Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and slower hard disk drive mean you aren’t going to get blazing fast speeds.

Two issues are often brought up by buyers who reviewed this model. First off, there’s a good deal of bloatware that needs to be removed after the initial Windows setup.

Second, there are much faster machines out there with better processors and quicker solid state drives. To get those features, you have to go up to a higher price bracket, though.

If you need a solid workhouse and speed isn’t as important, this can fit your needs quite well. When you need speed, going with a refurbished unit that has more RAM may be the right choice at this price.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Lenovo IdeaPad 320
ProcessorIntel Celeron N3350 (1.10 – 2.40GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 500
Display15.6-Inch HD Anti-Glare Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life4.5 hours
Weight4.84 lbs

4. Lenovo N22

  • Extremely light
  • High battery life
  • Small storage space
  • Compressed keyboard design

Should this be your choice?

Looking for a low-cost, basic use laptop that’s super lightweight and has a fantastic battery life? This should be your pick!

If you plan on staying well under $300, many of the computers available will be netbooks or Chromebooks. There don’t tend to be as many lightweight options available with Windows Home or Pro.

The Lenovo N22 solidly breaks that trend. This tiny notebook offers the size and weight of a Chromebook, but with the full version of Windows 10 instead.

While the display size is much smaller than your average full laptop, in exchange you get extreme battery life. If you need something that runs all day at school or for working from home, this will be your best bet.

The main negative brought up by reviewers deals with a side effect of the small size. This model’s keyboard is rather cramped, and there’s no full 10 key section.

Despite the small size and high battery life, this isn’t actually a touch screen model like you might expect. If you want that functionality, check out the next contender instead!

Hardware specifications for Lenovo N22
ProcessorIntel Celeron N3050 (1.60 0 2.16GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage64GB eMMC
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics
Display11.6-Inch HD Anti-Glare Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Battery Life14 hours
Weight2.8 lbs

5. Dell Inspiron Business 2 in 1 Laptop

  • Touch screen functionality
  • 2-in-1 flip design
  • No 10 key
  • Odd power button placement

Should this be your choice?

Do you prefer the style of a tablet over a bulky computer? This should be your pick as one of the best touchscreen laptops under $300!

Hardware is always getting smaller and lighter over time, and this Dell model takes full advantage of that fact. With a hybrid design, this Inspiron is basically both a tablet and a full computer.

This is an excellent middle of the road option if you want the best of all worlds. The Inspiron can fold up to be as handheld as a tablet, or expand out to sit like a regular laptop.

You even get a keyboard if you prefer typing that way instead of using the touch screen. Unfortunately due to space constraints it doesn’t have the full 10 key section on the side, which is often mentioned by buyers as the main negative.

A few reviewers also mentioned that the power button placement is a bit odd for a 2-in-1 device. It’s found on the side near the front edge, so it’s pretty easy to accidentally bump while browsing the web.

That issue aside, if you can’t get enough of touch screens, this one will meet your needs while staying at a low price.

Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron Business 2 in 1 Laptop
ProcessorIntel Pentium N3710 (1.6 – 2.5GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage500GB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics
Display11.6-Inch HD Touch Screen, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight2.65 lbs

Do I want a 2-in-1 hybrid laptop?

Within this price range, you are going to have two main considerations. Are you willing to buy a refurbished machine, and do you want a full laptop or a hybrid touch screen device?

After taking into account if you are willing to save money by going refurbed, the hybrid issue depends entirely on what you do with your computer.

Are you always glued to your phone and love the touch screen style? Do you need something that’s light and easy to carry between classes?

On the other hand, do you prefer more hard drive space for storing photos, music, ebooks, videos, etc.?

Either option can work well for school and work tasks, but hybrids tend to weigh much less and have better battery life.

If you store most of your data online or use your computer primarily for social media, a hybrid is the way to go. If you need large amounts of physical storage space without spending much money, go with a full size laptop instead.

Can I play games with these budget laptops?

In some cases, yes, you can play games, but your options are going to be very limited. At this price range you just won’t get the amount of RAM or processor power required for AAA games.

Steam will install on any of these contendersi and you can get some classic games running. That being said, these are not meant to be gaming machines.

Any games you are able to get running will likely have to run at the lowest possible settings. You may get through some rounds of League Of Legends, but don’t expect to get Arma or Battlefield working.

Some older games like GTA V will technically meet the minimum specs on this devices. The lack of a dedicated graphics cards will be your big problem with those games however.

With built-in Intel integrated graphics, you won’t get decent frame rates on any newer 3D games.

How Much Do I Really Need To Spend On A School Laptop?

The answer to this question entirely depends on how much power you actually need from a portable computer.

Are you primarily just browsing the web and sending emails or writing word docs? Do you need to have dozens of tabs open at once with multiple programs up for editing photos or video?

For basic school projects or word processing / spreadsheet creation at work, a cheap computer with 4GB of RAM gets the job done. For anything more heavy duty than those tasks — or to get faster speed while working — you want to bump up to 8GB.

In most cases, that means spending more than $300. The only exception there is when you can find pre-owned or refurbished machines with higher end specs.

If you find that laptop computers at this price range just don’t offer acceptable speed, try moving up to the $400 – $500 range for the best experience.

Conclusion

Did you find a budget computer that will work for you in our roundup of the best laptops under $300?

Let us know what you think of our picks and be sure to drop us a line if you’ve seen any better deals. We’re always on the lookout to get the best specs at the lowest price!

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